The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Emily Vancamp, Daniel Bruhl
Director: Kari Skogland
What do heroes mean in a divided, broken and vulnerable world? Do they serve as an inspiration for the people to keep faith and do the right thing? Or, they are glaring reminders of the chaos that they were responsible for? What happens to the heroes in this vulnerable world? What happens when the people they followed and admired are gone? The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is probably the most self-aware MCU product in a while now, probably since the first half hour of Captain America: Civil War, when they are discussing the Sokovia Accords.
Unlike the first and very successful show of MCU Phase 4, WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (TFATWS) is rooted in reality. There is no dreamland here, no sitcom-like situation with two people in love. In fact, TFATWS opens with pain. Sam Wilson, who was given the Captain America shield by an old Steve Rogers decides to donate it to the government instead of carrying on his legacy. The fact that he is in mourning is clear in his eyes. Even when he is still putting his life in danger as a para-rescue soldier, it is clear that he is not an Avenger any more.
To add to this is the fact that Sam is back in his world after being dusted off for five years by Thanos’ snap. The events of Avengers: Endgame were so glamorous that people forget that the first thing these people did after coming back from the dead again was to fight the villain who killed them in the first place. Sam’s personal life is a mess. His sister, a widow, is struggling to keep her and her children afloat. Sam wants to help her and takes her to a bank. However, even when the manager takes selfies and thanks Sam ‘for his service’, he still doesn’t want to approve a loan for them. The message is clear, you can be a hero in America, but you can’t get a loan if you are Black.
Bucky on the other hand, still has nightmares about the people he killed as the Winter Soldier. He is in therapy with another war veteran who knows when he is lying. We see him trying to make amends as a part of his recovery. He has befriended an old Japanese man who doesn’t know that Bucky killed his son. Obviously post traumatic stress disorder and mental health is nothing to joke about. But in true MCU fashion, we see Bucky coping with a sense of humour. In a way, it’s a commendable feat to achieve with a character like him.
Bucky in TFATWS reminds us of Bucky in Captain America: The First Avenger, when he was still the wide-eyed young man enthusiastic to fight for his country and follow the ‘kid from Brooklyn’ who was his best friend. In a way, this new Bucky, who has seen years of war, violence and death is trying to find his older self.
What is great about the show, at least from the first impression, is that it wants to give these two characters the due that they deserved. Anthony Mackie’s Sam has always been treated as a part of Steve Roger’s posse but had not been given enough time or an arc to flourish on his own. On the other hand, Sebastian Stan’s Bucky, though being the villain in one of the films and the catalyst in another, did not have enough screen-time (32 minutes or so combined in 7 films) or dialogues or the proper respect of being titled as an Avenger.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier makes a superhero out of Sam and Bucky. In a way this show is a result of years of fans demanding justice for these criminally underrated characters. Hence, it is great to see them delivering under the spotlight.
Mackie has always been a strong performer, and the way he makes this character his own is commendable. Stan has always worked with little to no dialogues in the Marvel films. So seeing him utilise his talents is great. To be fair, they have played these characters for so many years now, it feels unnecessary to talk about their performance.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has opened with a bang. Marvel has this tried and tested formula for success and it helps that the show is actually pretty cool. The Marvel Studios knows that it has a loyal fanbase who will wait patiently to watch this story pan out for six weeks. They aren’t mistaken. All we have to do is now wait and watch. Literally.